GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan (August 11, 2011) - A soft pink-hued glow highlights Sgt. Garrett Farris' eyebrows,
nose, cheeks and chin as he lies in his cot with a laptop resting on
his stomach. On the screen, an animated horned beast falls in love
with an innocent beauty.
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province,
Afghanistan -Marines from 2nd Section with Combined Anti-Armor Team
1 follow Sgt. Garrett Farris while on a security patrol here, July
11, 2011. Farris, a Castroville, Texas native, is a section leader
for Weapons Company from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. This is
his fourth deployment, but his first with children back home. He
joined the Marine Corps in 2004. Photo by USMC Sgt. Sneden
Farris is watching a Disney movie before calling it a night. His
interest is drawn to the screen, but his mind is on the other side
of the planet, where his two children watch Disney movies like
Beauty and the Beast every night before going to bed.
This is the 26-year-old's fourth deployment. He has been to Iraq
twice and sailed around the Pacific Ocean with a Marine
Expeditionary Unit. He has ‘been there, done that' so to speak, but
this time is different.
His girls are three and one years old, and he thinks of them
“Whenever I think about my kids I just go hide in a corner and
watch Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin or whatever,” Farris said.
“It's something intimate between me and my kids. Something
(specific) that ties me to home, because it's what I would be doing
if I was at home — sitting on the couch, watching a movie with my
Patrolling everyday takes his mind off not being in the presence
of his children. The squad Farris leads doesn't take
the place of his family, but they provide him a brotherhood.
“Imagine taking nine different guys with all different
backgrounds and getting them to focus on the same thing for seven
straight months — and be completely and totally unwilling to fail in
anything we do — and that's the best way to explain it out here,”
Farris said. “As far as the bond between us, I won't even try to
explain. I don't think it is feasible.”
The blue-eyed, Castroville, Texas, native is a section leader for
Weapons Company. Taller than any of his Marines, with a freckled
face hinting at his Irish background, Farris is the obvious leader
of his squad. His Marines go to him from answers about infantry
skills to help with personal issues. With an air of confidence not
unlike an older brother playing backyard football with his siblings,
Farris leads his Marines.
However, the relationship is dynamic. Farris also draws on his
Marines for support and believes their teamwork and unvarying
mindset makes his squad successful.
“Brothers would be the best way to explain it,” Farris said. “I
rely on them just as much as they rely on me. You never really look
for the relationships when you go into a deployment, but they are
always there when you leave.”
The relationship between Farris and his Marines is similar to the
one between him and his superiors; however, sergeants are expected
to ask fewer questions. They are shouldered with responsibility for
their Marines successes and failures, and are generally the most
experienced Marines who still do mostly hands-on work.
His deployment experience sets him up to be a successful leader.
The day-to-day patrol and post schedule provides a set routine for
Farris to mentor his junior Marines. He takes care of them like a
big brother, being attentive to there needs but strict enough so
they know their boundaries.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Farris is the moral leader
of his Marines.
“I tell them to never give up their own ethics,” Farris said.
“Every deployment I've done, I have always left being able to say
there isn't a story ... that I couldn't tell my grandma ... And, if I
started to veer left or right from what needed to get done, I think
(my Marines) would put me in check just as quick as I would them. We
are mutually supportive of each other and know the role of what we
need to do.”
“Leading Marines is the biggest honor in the world,” Farris
added. “Somebody saw fit to allow me to possibly lead Marines into
combat. That's just an amazing privilege, because the Marines in
charge of me and the families of the Marines I lead believe in me to
do the right thing and to do my absolute best to bring them home.”
Despite Farris' love for the Marine Corps, he is considering a
change of career. This is his fourth deployment, and now that he has
kids, his perspective is changing. He enjoys the privilege of
leading Marines, but his heart belongs to his family.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I have done in the Marine
Corps,” Farris said. “Having kids changed my priorities a little
bit. What I enjoy kind of makes life a little more difficult with
the moving and deployments, but we'll see where it goes. I am still
on the fence.”
For now, Farris says he will concentrate on the present:
patrolling and taking care of his Marines in the Afghan desert. And
when pines for home, he'll boot up his laptop to watch a Disney
movie, imagining he's with his children.
Farris' responsibilities don't end with his Marines; he also mentors
a squad of Afghanistan National Army soldiers. Farris' attitude
toward his foreign brothers-in-arms doesn't differ from that of his
Marines. He provides a steady advisory to teach the soldiers how to
operate but also a strict hand to instill a military discipline
needed so the ANA squad can operate on their own.
“They are basically the reason why
we are here right now, is to train them and to get them able to do
things on their own and we just have to keep pushing for the final
end state that's needed,” Farris said.
Editor's Note: ‘Through the Ranks,' is a series of feature
articles about a day in the life of a deployed Marine from 1st
Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. Each article will highlight an
individual's personal experience through the perspective of his
rank. This is the fifth article of the series.
By USMC Cpl. Colby Brown
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